Monday, September 30, 2013

Curator's Note: My Bowl Is Not My Bowl

I want to publicly thank artist Lynda Lowe for recognizing A Year of Being Here through her beautiful Patra Passage project. I can't wait to see the bowl with which you have gifted me, which I will then be able to pass on, when the moment seems right.

According to its website, Patra Passage is
an art-based experiment in the ongoing act of giving and receiving. The word patra refers to the name of alms bowls that monks carry in various cultures and translates as the vessel that never goes empty. Whatever is received in the bowl is enough for the day, a reminder of the offerings of the present moment....
The Passage centers on the gifting of 108 hand-built ceramic vessels to participants who will re-gift them to others. The giftism cycle will continue for one year until each bowl has been presented and received at least three times, creating a community of over 324 participants. At the end of their circulation, the Patra will be returned and exhibited at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, WA, sold, and all proceeds given to charity.

Learn more about Patra Passage, which is (among other things) all about mindfulness, at the project's website.

Thanks again, Lynda!

Burton D. Carley: "September Meditation"

I do not know if the seasons remember their history or if the days and
nights by which we count time remember their own passing.

I do not know if the oak tree remembers its planting or if the pine
remembers its slow climb toward sun and stars.

I do not know if the squirrel remembers last fall's gathering or if the
bluejay remembers the meaning of snow.

I do not know if the air remembers September or if the night remembers
the moon.

I do not know if the earth remembers the flowers from last spring or if
the evergreen remembers that it shall stay so.

Perhaps that is the reason for our births—to be the memory for

Perhaps salvation is something very different than anyone ever expected.

Perhaps this will be the only question we will have to answer:
"What can you tell me about September?"

"September Meditation" by Burton D. Carley. © Burton D. Carley. [Curator's Note: The source of this poem is often listed online as the 1997 UUMA Worship Materials Collection, but I can't locate the poem in that document. I therefore have no good authority for the format of the poem's presentation in this post.]

Image credit: "Oak Tree in Autumn," hand-painted in watercolors with ink out-lines on Arches watercolor paper (hot press), by Lisa Winne © 2011 (originally color).


Sunday, September 29, 2013

Naomi Shihab Nye: "Breaking the Fast"


Japanese teacher says:
At first light, rise.
Don’t hover between
sleep and waking,
this makes you heavy,
puts a stone inside your heart.

The minute you drift back to shore,
anchor. Breathe.
Remember your deepest name.


Sometimes objects stun me,
bamboo strainer, gray mug,
sitting exactly where
they were left.

They have not slept
or dreamt of lost faces.

I touch them carefully,
saying, tell me what you know.


Cup of waves,
strawberry balanced
in a seashell.

In morning the water seems
clear to the bottom.

No fish blocks my view.

"Breaking the Fast" by Naomi Shihab Nye, from Red Suitcase. © BOA Editions, 1994.

Image credit: "Waking Up," acrylic on canvas, by Douglas Simonson (originally color).

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Sonia Sanchez: Untitled (from Morning Haiku)

Let me wear the day
Well so when it reaches you
You will enjoy it.

Untitled by Sonia Sanchez, from Morning Haiku. © Beacon Press, 2010.

Image credit: "Freedom Painting," by vivainstitute (originally color).


Friday, September 27, 2013

Wendell Berry: "Sabbaths 2001, VIII"

The question before me, now that I
am old, is not how to be dead,
which I know from enough practice,
but how to be alive, as these worn
hills still tell, and some paintings
of Paul Cézanne, and this mere
singing wren, who thinks he's alive
forever, this instant, and may be.

"Sabbaths 2001, VIII" by Wendell Berry. Published in Poetry, October/November 2002.

Image credit: "Curtain, Jug and Fruit," oil on canvas, by Paul Cézanne, 1894 (originally color).


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Sara Teasdale: "September Midnight"

Lyric night of the lingering Indian Summer,
Shadowy fields that are scentless but full of singing,
Never a bird, but the passionless chant of insects,
       Ceaseless, insistent.  

The grasshopper’s horn, and far-off, high in the maples,
The wheel of a locust leisurely grinding the silence
Under a moon waning and worn, broken,
       Tired with summer.  

Let me remember you, voices of little insects,
Weeds in the moonlight, fields that are tangled with asters,
Let me remember, soon will the winter be on us,
       Snow-hushed and heavy.  

Over my soul murmur your mute benediction,
While I gaze, O fields that rest after harvest,
As those who part look long in the eyes they lean to,
       Lest they forget them.

"September Midnight," by Sara Teasdale. Published in Poetry, March 1914.

Photography credit: Untitled, by (originally color).

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

David Wagoner: "Lost"

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

"Lost" by David Wagoner, from Collected Poems, 1956-1976 © Indiana University Press, 1976.

Photography credit: "A Grove of Sequoia Trees," by mit19237 (originally color).


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Rainer Maria Rilke: "A Walk"

My eyes already touch the sunny hill,
going far ahead of the road I have begun.
So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;
it has its inner light, even from a distance—

and changes us, even if we do not reach it,
into something else, which, hardly sensing it,
we already are; a gesture waves us on,
answering our own wave…
but what we feel is the wind in our faces.

"A Walk" by Rainer Maria Rilke, from Selected Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Robert Bly. © Harper Perennial, 1981.

Photography credit: "Hilly Road," by Joseph Austin (originally color).


Monday, September 23, 2013

May Sarton: "Now Voyager"

Now voyager, lay here your dazzled head.
Come back to earth from air, be nourished,
Not with that light on light, but with this bread.

Here close to earth be cherished, mortal heart,
Hold your way deep as roots push rocks apart
To bring the spurt of green up from the dark.

Where music thundered let the mind be still,
Where the will triumphed let there be no will,
What light revealed, now let the dark fulfill.

Here close to earth the deeper pulse is stirred,
Here where no wings rush and no sudden bird,
But only heart-beat upon beat is heard.

Here let the fiery burden be all spilled,
The passionate voice at last be calmed and stilled
And the long yearning of the blood fulfilled.

Now voyager, come home, come home to rest,
Here on the long-lost country of earth’s breast
Lay down the fiery vision, and be blest, be blest.

"Now Voyager" by May Sarton, from Collected Poems, 1930-1993. © W. W. Norton & Company, 1992.

Photography credit: "Rock Splitting Tree," by Phil Taylor, the Faffer (originally color).


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Todd Davis: "The Sound of Sunlight"

On the far side
of the canyon
is burning
through two
like water
into an empty

A canyon wren
her mouth
and a coyote
before vanishing
among juniper.

As we descend
the eastern wall
we look
and witness
the shadow
of a merlin
the merlin

Behind us
in the meadow
where we lay
last night
the squall
of an elk
picks up
the sound
of sunlight
and joins it
in a flood
of bugling.

"The Sound of Sunlight" by Todd Davis, from In the Kingdom of the Ditch. © Michigan State University Press, 2013.  

Photography credit: "Light and shadow play with each other across the cliffs of the Grand Canyon," by Bhaskar Krishnamurthy (originally color).

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Larry Schug: "A Lesson in Mindfulness"

A Buddhist monk
is trying to teach me
from a book
but my stomach
is too full of ice cream
for me to breathe properly.

Outside my window,
a hungry green heron,
perched perfectly still,
fully in his moment,
surveys the pond
for frogs and fish.
The teacher
has grown green wings,
the book having folded up
its feathers for the night.

"A Lesson in Mindfulness" by Larry Schug. © Larry Schug.

Photography credit: "Green Heron," by unknown photographer (originally color).


Friday, September 20, 2013

Changming Yuan: "Bird vs. Sea"

As if straight from heaven
A young snowy seagull charges down
Like a lightning strike
Trying to pick up the entire ocean
With its bold beak
As the tide raises
All its fierce fists
To protect against earth’s agitation
In foamy darkness

Far away, no one seems to stand
On the beach, watching

"Bird vs. Sea" by Changming Yuan. © Changming Yuan.

Photography credit: Detail from "Seagull Taking the Plunge," by AlbOst (originally color).


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Mary Oliver: "Praying"

It doesn't have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

"Praying" by Mary Oliver, from Thirst: Poems. © Beacon Press, 2007.

Photography credit: Times-Picayune archive (originally color).


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

James Broughton: "Here's to It"

(A Metaphysical Drinking Song)

Here’s to that thing
we won’t admit! 
Here’s to the omnipresent
Here’s to the IT
in which we sit
and stand and walk
and laugh and spit.
It’s in every act
that we commit. 
It’s our inescapable

Here’s to the It,
our benefit
that makes the world
It is the cloth
most finely knit.
It’s all of a piece
but composite. 
It is the suit
with the perfect fit.
It always includes
its opposite.

It’s not the device
of a Jesuit.
It’s much older than
Holy Writ.

It’s not a mechanical
It’s a metaphysical
hunting kit. 
It’s infinitely definite
and definitely infinite.

And It’s always here
so Here’s to It!
And all It says is
   to it!

"Here's to It" by James Broughton, from Packing Up for Paradise: Selected Poems 1946-1996. © Black Sparrow Press, 1997.

Image credit: "Teenagers Contemplating Sunset," painting produced by computer software, by G.D. Zulch (originally color).


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Alice Walker: "While Love Is Unfashionable"

for Mel

While love is unfashionable
let us live
Seeing the world
a complex ball
in small hands;
love our blackest garment.
Let us be poor
in all but truth, and courage
handed down
by the old spirits.
Let us be intimate with
ancestral ghosts
and music
of the undead.

While love is dangerous
let us walk bareheaded
beside the great River.
Let us gather blossoms under fire.

"While Love Is Unfashionable" by Alice Walker, from Revolutionary Petunias. © Mariner Books, 1973.

Image credit: "Working Together on Planet Earth," by Alan Crosthwaite (originally color).


Monday, September 16, 2013

Ellen Kort: "Walking on Water"

You know how it is sometimes
when you look out on water
smooth as a mirror I've always
wanted to try it so I simply
stepped off the dock when
everything was clear and still
It wasn't like flying or
sleep-walking But the surface wasn't hard as glass either
and it wasn't like parting
the Red Sea or anything I think
it was just a matter of wanting
to do it putting one foot
in front of the other and going

I went all the way around
the island and when I got back
this friend of mine asked me
where I was and I said "Out walking"
Now that I know that I can do it
I can hardly wait until tonight
When the moon comes up
and makes a path on the water
I know exactly where I'm going

"Walking on Water" by Ellen Kort. © Ellen Kort.

Photography credit: Unknown (originally color).


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Charles Simic: "Miracle Glass Co."

Heavy mirror carried
Across the street,
I bow to you
And to everything that appears in you,
And never again the same way:

This street with its pink sky,
Row of gray tenements,
A lone dog,
Children on roller-skates,
Woman buying flowers,
Someone looking lost.

In you, mirror framed in gold
And carried across the street
By someone I can’t even see,
To whom, too, I bow.

"Miracle Glass Co." by Charles Simic, from A Wedding in Hell. © Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1994.  

Photography credit: Detail from photo series entitled "Carrying a Mirror Thru La Candelaria," by Miguel (originally color).

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Marge Piercy: "To Have Without Holding"

Learning to love differently is hard,
love with the hands wide open, love
with the doors banging on their hinges,
the cupboard unlocked, the wind
roaring and whimpering in the rooms
rustling the sheets and snapping the blinds
that thwack like rubber bands
in an open palm.

It hurts to love wide open
stretching the muscles that feel
as if they are made of wet plaster,
then of blunt knives, then
of sharp knives.

It hurts to thwart the reflexes
of grab, of clutch; to love and let
go again and again. It pesters to remember
the lover who is not in the bed,
to hold back what is owed to the work
that gutters like a candle in a cave
without air, to love consciously,
conscientiously, concretely, constructively.

I can't do it, you say it's killing
me, but you thrive, you glow
on the street like a neon raspberry,
You float and sail, a helium balloon
bright bachelor's button blue and bobbing
on the cold and hot winds of our breath,
as we make and unmake in passionate
diastole and systole the rhythm
of our unbound bonding, to have
and not to hold, to love
with minimized malice, hunger
and anger moment by moment balanced.

"To Have Without Holding" by Marge Piercy, from The Moon Is Always Female. © Knopf, 1980.

Image credit: "Arms Wide Open with Love," encaustic on board, by Ezshwan Winding (originally color).

Friday, September 13, 2013

Tess Gallagher: "The Hug"

A woman is reading a poem on the street
and another woman stops to listen. We stop too,
with our arms around each other. The poem
is being read and listened to out here
in the open. Behind us
no-one is entering or leaving the houses.

Suddenly, a hug comes over me and I'm
giving it to you, like a variable star shooting light
off to make itself comfortable, then
subsiding. I finish but keep on holding
you. A man walks up to us and we know he hasn't
come out of nowhere, but if he could, he
would have. He looks homeless because of how
he needs. "Can I have one of those?" he asks you,
and I feel you nod. I'm surprised,
surprised you don't tell him how
it is—that I'm yours, only
yours, exclusive as a nose to
its face. Love—that's what we're talking about, love
that nabs you with "for me
only" and holds on.

So I walk over to him and put my
arms around him and try to
hug him like I mean it. He's got an overcoat on
so thick I can't feel
him past it. I'm starting the hug
and thinking, "How big a hug is this supposed to be?
How long shall I hold this hug?" Already
we could be eternal, his arms falling over my
shoulders, my hands not
meeting behind his back, he is so big!

I put my head into his chest and snuggle
in. I lean into him. I lean my blood and my wishes
into him. He stands for it. This is his
and he's starting to give it back so well I know he's
getting it. This hug. So truly, so tenderly
we stop having arms and I don't know if
my lover has walked away or what, or
if the woman is still reading the poem, or the houses—
what about them?—the houses.

Clearly, a little permission is a dangerous thing.
But when you hug someone you want it
to be a masterpiece of connection, the way the button
on his coat will leave the imprint of
a planet on my cheek
when I walk away. When I try to find some place
to go back to.

"The Hug" by Tess Gallagher, from Midnight Lantern: New and Selected Poems. © Graywolf Press, 2011.  

Image credit: "Give Me a Hug," oil on canvas, by Adeniyi Adeyi.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Carl Dennis: "Still Life"

Now's a good time, before the night comes on,
To praise the loyalty of the vase of flowers
Gracing the parlor table, and the bowl of oranges,
And the book with freckled pages resting on the tablecloth.
To remark how these items aren't conspiring
To pack their bags and move to a place
Where stillness appears to more advantage.
No plan for a heaven above, beyond, or within,
Whose ever-blooming bushes are rustling
In a sea breeze at this very moment.
These things are focusing all their attention
On holding fast as time washes around them.
The flowers in the vase won't come again.
The page of the book beside it, the edge turned down,
Will never be read again for the first time.
The light from the window's angled.
The sun's moving on. That's why the people
Who live in the house are missing.
They're all outside enjoying the light that's left them.
Lucky for them to find when they return
These silent things just as they were.
Night's coming on and they haven't been frightened off.
They haven't once dreamed of going anywhere.

"Still Life" by Carl Dennis, from Ranking the Wishes. © Penguin Poets, 1997.

Image credit: Untitled watercolor by unknown artist (originally color).


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Octavio Paz: "Between Going and Staying"

Between going and staying the day wavers,
in love with its own transparency.

The circular afternoon is now a bay
where the world in stillness rocks.

All is visible and all elusive,
all is near and can't be touched.

Paper, book, pencil, glass,
rest in the shade of their names.

Time throbbing in my temples repeats
the same unchanging syllable of blood.

The light turns the indifferent wall
into a ghostly theater of reflections.

I find myself in the middle of an eye,
watching myself in its blank stare.

The moment scatters. Motionless,
I stay and go: I am a pause.

"Between Going and Staying" by Octavio Paz, from The Collected Poems of Octavio Paz, 1957-1987, translated by Eliot Weinberger. © New Directions Publishing, 1991.

Photography credit: "Shadows Low on the Office Wall," by Kevin J. Miyazaki (originally black and white).


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Robert Bly: "Driving Toward the Lac Qui Parle River"

I am driving; it is dusk; Minnesota.
The stubble field catches the last growth of sun.  
The soybeans are breathing on all sides.
Old men are sitting before their houses on car seats  
In the small towns. I am happy,
The moon rising above the turkey sheds.

The small world of the car
Plunges through the deep fields of the night,  
On the road from Willmar to Milan.  
This solitude covered with iron
Moves through the fields of night
Penetrated by the noise of crickets.

Nearly to Milan, suddenly a small bridge,
And water kneeling in the moonlight.
In small towns the houses are built right on the ground;  
The lamplight falls on all fours on the grass.
When I reach the river, the full moon covers it.  
A few people are talking, low, in a boat.

"Driving Toward the Lac Qui Parle River" by Robert Bly, from Silence in the Snowy Fields. © Wesleyan University Press, 1962.

Photography credit: "Headlights at Night," by unknown photographer (originally black and white).

Monday, September 9, 2013

Freya Manfred: "Green Pear Tree in September"

On a hill overlooking the Rock River
my father's pear tree shimmers,
in perfect peace,
covered with hundreds of ripe pears
with pert tops, plump bottoms,
and long curved leaves.
Until the green-haloed tree
rose up and sang hello,
I had forgotten...
He planted it twelve years ago,
when he was seventy-three,
so that in September
he could stroll down
with the sound of the crickets
rising and falling around him,
and stand, naked to the waist,
slightly bent, sucking juice
from a ripe pear.

"Green Pear Tree in September" by Freya Manfred, from My Only Home. © Red Dragonfly Press, 2003.

Image credit: "PearTree," ink on paper, by Amy Giacomelli (originally color).

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Curator's Note: Sometimes Happy Mistakes Happen...

...and so it was last night, when I was preparing Galway Kinnell's "Prayer" for posting in early October. When I had it ready, I somehow managed to actually publish it instead of storing it in my queue of future posts.

My mistake went unnoticed until this morning, when I found in my inbox a reader's thoughtful note of thanks for Kinnell's poem.

My mistake. Your happy day. (Can one ever have too many mindfulness poems?)

Theodore Roethke: "The Waking"

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me, so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

I learn by going where I have to go.

"The Waking" by Theodore Roethke, from The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke. © Anchor, 1974.  

Photography credit: "Life Is," by unknown photographer (originally black and white).


Saturday, September 7, 2013

Galway Kinnell: "Prayer"

Whatever happens. Whatever
what is is is what
I want. Only that. But that.

[Curator's note: Today, instead of a photograph, let's enjoy a video of the poet performing his poem, then offering a very brief comment. Though, on second thought, "performing" seems not the right word. "Praying," in his own way, perhaps? Or "delighting in his craft?" Watch Galway's face with care. All the way to the end.

If you can't see the embedded viewer below, click here to watch the clip, less than a minute long. Unfortunately the clip can't be embedded in this website to its full width, but Kinnell's presentation is still a treat.]

"Prayer" by Galway Kinnell, from A New Selected Poems, Edited by S. M. Intrator and M. Scribner. © HarperCollins Publishers, 1995.

Video credit: Poetry Matters Now.

Joseph Robert Mills: "Standing Before Shelves of Cookbooks and Trying to Decide What to Make for Dinner"

Most of these I’ve never used,
although each time I bought one
I was convinced that I would,
just as I thought I would read
the pile of parenting books
that now spills under the bed,
or the texts on physics,
stars, and string theory
stacked next to my desk.
I used to check out hundreds
of library books, hoping somewhere
in the pages would be the advice
I needed to make something
with the ingredients of my life,
yet each day ends up being
another hasty improvisation
with nothing measured cleanly
and no clear sequence to the steps.
Still, I continue to believe
in the idea of simple solutions,
ones as elegant as a wheel.
I remember how someone said
the best Italian dishes have no more
than four ingredients with the key
being freshness and quality,
how Archimedes claimed he could
move the world with a long enough lever
and a solid place to stand,
how the most powerful sentence
in the Bible is “Jesus wept.”
So later, after dinner, whatever it is,
I will navigate the dark bedrooms
of my children, threading past
piles of books, toys, and clothes,
until I stand before them,
the daughter and the son,
each asleep, wrapped in sheets
like loaves of fresh bread,
and I will murmur a kind of prayer:
May you recognize the wheel
of your days. May your faith
and friendships be flavored
with tears. May you find love
like a lever and a place to stand
together. May you have a life as
satisfying as a good Italian dish.

"Standing Before Shelves of Cookbooks and Trying to Decide What to Make for Dinner" by Joseph Robert Mills, from Sending Christmas Cards to Huck and Hamlet. © Press 53, 2012.

Photography credit: Alexis Stewart (originally color).